Roam Guide / Des Moines, Iowa
Shannon Salmon is a born and raised, hotdish eating Minne-SO-tan, can you hear the accent? It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when she moved from Minneapolis to Des Moines seven years ago with her husband and two kids, until she decided to start saying “YES!” to new opportunities, people and experiences. That decision was the spark she needed to expand her real estate career and develop a passion for all things social media. This manifested its self into a bi-weekly video series, “Where is She Wednesday” showcasing her “Selling in Stripes” real estate personality and introducing unique places and faces around town. This project aligns perfectly with career in real estate and her in new found love for the city of Des Moines.
Des Moines, Iowa
When to go?
I prefer the fall - a Midwesterner’s favorite season! We wait all summer for that first day when the humidity breaks, and there's a uniform response of "oh wow, I can actually breath when I step outside.” Glorious! This is the time of year when the brilliant orange, red and yellow autumn leaves catch the evening sun and explode with color. I have two big maple trees my backyard and I can’t wait for them to start this incredible transformation.
How to get there?
Drive. Just drive. Road trips create unexpected memories and sometimes detours, that stay with you forever. Des Moines is only a 4 short hours from Minneapolis and 5 1/2 from Chicago, and you’ll see some beautiful rolling hills and farmland along the way. If you live further than that, I give you permission to fly. The quaint airport in Des Moines is easy to navigate.
Where did you stay?
I always recommend staying in The East Village at the AC Hotel or Downtown at Des Lux, both areas are walkable to restaurants, shops and family friendly adventures. Another option is the newly remodeled Hotel Renovo in Urbandale, right off the interstate. A modern farmhouse boutique hotel neighboring The Machine Shed Restaurant and tourist favorite, Living History Farm. Great choice for the true Iowa “farm feel” experience!
What should we do?
If you are here on a Saturday, head to what’s been awarded as one of the best farmer’s markets in the country. The Des Moines’ Downtown Farmers Market is right on the water and a must for visitors. You’re sure to find something amazing, with nearly 300 local vendors, farm to table eats, fruit and vegetable producers, bakers and artists. Bring cash.
Rtip: The best place to park is the 4th and Grand garage on the NW side of the civic center. It’s free on the weekend and a short walk through the pedestrian friendly Cowles Commons right into the market. Stop into Court Ave Restaurant and Brewing for a bottomless Bloody Mary and their Spent Grain Pretzels before or after your trip to the market.
Grab a coffee at Horizon Line Coffee and go explore the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The area features 29 works of unique, sculptured art and is a nice stroll through the heart of Des Moines. The Nomad is a favorite sculpture for those Instagramers who need a cool photo-op. During the week you can usually catch some local food trucks situated along the park. Or you can walk to one of the many restaurants in nearby, like Centro for Italian or Exile for appetizers and a local beer. This park is also home to the Des Moines Art Festival and 80/35 Music Festival if you’re there in the summer!
One of our favorite day trips is to The Ledges State Park, located just an hour NW of Des Moines. Pack some snacks and plan to spend the day hiking in the fresh air while taking in the beauty of the canyons and bluffs in Iowa’s first state park.
One of my favorite things about this great city is all the miles of trails to run, walk, or bike on. Start at the Principal Riverwalk where a 1.2 mile looping trail takes you along the river and across some incredible pedestrian bridges, like the Women’s Achievement Bridge which connects the east and west sides of the city.
Where should we eat?
I happen to share a love for food with some of the “foodiest” foodies in Des Moines, and it’s through these friendships I’ve experienced some of the best grub around.
First let’s talk pizza, Asian-inspired pizza to be exact. Stay with me on this one, I promise not to steer you wrong. Fong’s Pizza & Tiki Bar takes pizza to a whole new level with their Crab Rangoon signature pizza and the supporting menu will not disappoint. Their most recent special, Fried Cucumber Lo Mein Egg Rolls may sound odd, but it’s delicious. Also located downtown is the High Life Lounge, “The Champagne of Bars”, an offbeat homage to the Midwestern beer halls of the 1960s dishing up old-school comfort food. I’m talking deviled eggs, bacon wrapped tator tots, broasted chicken, beef stroganoff, mom’s pot roast, liver and onions and chicken pot pie! Lots of variety on the kids menu too!
Next up is Harbinger, this place is amazing. It’s a big city dining experience in a small town. Don’t take my word for it, just go.
Where should we drink?
The East Village is home to some of the best coffee shops in Des Moines. Scenic Route Bakery has my favorite signature coffee the Honeybee, which is an exquisite blend of espresso, honey, steamed milk and cinnamon. This is a bustling spot during the week for work meetings and folks looking to ditch the office scene with their laptop in hand.
“I would be failing at life if I didn’t mention Horizon Line Coffee shop. My favorite is their coffee flight, 12 oz of coffee, brewed 3 ways, and they also serve oat milk as an option!”
Now let’s chat local/craft beer, something we are extremely proud of in Iowa. The Iowa Tap Room, located in my favorite Historic East Village has has a variety of local beer on tap. Throw in a side of ham balls and you’ve got yourself a great afternoon. On the other side of the river you’ll find El Bait Shop where you can enjoy over 250 craft beers as well as food from the aforementioned High Life Lounge.
Rtip: Check out the occasional Around The Table Popup dinners, offering guests a unique opportunity to share a meal while fostering a common sense of community. These cultural events are organized by content creator, Evan Olson of Say Hello to the City with the same intention as we have at Ready and Roam, to connect and share our experiences with each other.
What is the one can't miss item on your itinerary?
West End Architectural Salvage is a hidden gem even among locals. Grab a coffee, beer or cocktail from their bar and get lost exploring their huge warehouse full of one-of-a-kind, rescued and creatively repurposed treasures. If you run into the owner Don, tell him I sent ya!
Tell us something we don't know?
Remember the bite heard around the world? Des Moines Veterans Memorial Auditorium (now the Iowa Events Center) was the spot in 1982 where Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a dead bat. Thanks Ozzy for putting us on the map. Yikes!
What should we shop for, or bring back with us?
Do some shopping in the East Village. Start with RAYGUN, the self proclaimed “Greatest Store in the Universe” and one stop shop for all things uniquely Iowa. In the same building you’ll find quirky, handmade goods at Domestica. Don’t forget local treasure and modern day apothecary, Eden only blocks away.
What should we take on the trip?
You will definitely want to pack some layers when you visit Des Moines. If you’re not familiar with Midwest weather, it can swing from 50 to 90 degrees from day to day. I’m not joking, I wouldn’t rule out snow as I’m still traumatized from trick or treating during the blizzard of 1991!
Click here to see everywhere Shannon suggests to put in your Iowa itinerary.